College Football Handicapping: Taking A Stab At The Prime-Time Card

Today has some really good college football games, which makes it somewhat annoying that four of them are going to more or less conflict with each other time-wise. I’m old enough to remember when the Noon ET time slot used to have at least one really good game going. Now everything is backloaded to prime-time. But here’s some thoughts on the big games of today, starting with the late afternoon USC-Stanford game that starts in about an hour and a half.

I’m going to make a tentative try at some college football handicapping and pick these games against the Las Vegas number. I didn’t do this last week, and may not do it next week, if only to avoid the constant public humiliation (because if I do continue this, I’ll post my record). But here we go. The road team listed first, and the Over/Under follows the spread in parentheses…
USC (+3, 54) Stanford: If this game goes according to the Vegas number it ends up around 28-26 Stanford. I love the Cardinal program as its developed under David Shaw, but I see this as a retooling year on the Farm. USC looks ready to return to the status of Pac-12 contender. I think they win outright, and I’d certainly grab them with the points. Pick: USC
Las VegasMichigan State (+13, 57) Oregon: I really like Sparty’s chances here, and I applaud David Pollack on ESPN Gameday, who called the outright upset. I’m not sure what I think in terms of the outright winner, but that makes it clear I’m taking the 13-point underdog against the number. Oregon hasn’t matched up well with Stanford and Michigan State plays a similar style—even better in fact, as they beat the Cardinal in last year’s Rose Bowl and have more consistent passing with Connor Cook.  Pick: Michigan State
Michigan (+3.5, 57) Notre Dame: I don’t have strong feelings here, and given the history of this rivalry, I don’t like giving more than a field goal. But I liked what I saw from the Irish here, I think they’ll win and odds are, that even in a close game, they would get an ATS cover. Pick: Notre Dame
BYU (PK, 46) Texas: I’m targeting the total here. Texas is breaking in a new quarterback and head coach Charlie Strong suspended both offensive tackles. But Charlie can also coach himself some defense, and while Taysom Hill is an electric quarterback for BYU, the Coogs depend on him a little too much. I’m very conflicted on who wins, but not at all hesitant about saying it’s a low scoring game. Pick: Under
Virginia Tech (+10.5, 47) Ohio State: Virginia Tech has performed poorly against the number over the last three years—which is really a way of saying the betting market has performed poorly in rating them, since the kids themselves have won 24 games and gotten a Sugar Bowl bid in that timeframe. They aren’t responsible for inflated numbers. But it does give credence to the “Virginia Tech is overrated” theme. I think Ohio State has gotten underrated since the injury of Braxton Miller and will take the Buckeyes to cover the big line. Pick: Ohio State